Atlantic Charter

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The Atlantic Charter was an August 14, 1941 manifesto by the U.S. and Britain for postwar peace calling for 8 goals, especially free trade and self-determination of nations. Territorial gains from the war were renounced; it opposed territorial changes that "do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned"; respected the right of all people to choose their form of government; sought the restoration of sovereignty to those nations that had been "forcibly deprived of it"; sought free access for all nations to trade and raw materials and freedom of movement on the oceans; sought international cooperation (without mention of anything like the defunct League of Nations); called for higher living standards and freedom from fear and want; sought disarmament after the war; and promised to destroy Nazi tyranny.

Public opinion across the world welcomed the Charter

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Newfoundland at the Atlantic Conference August 9–12, 1941, in order to set long-term peace goals. They called for the destruction of Nazi tyranny (Germany had just declared war against the Soviet Union) but did not call for regime change. They also called on Japan to withdraw from Indochina. Britain at the time was at war with Germany; the U.S. was at peace, but was heavily engaged in supplying war materials and money to Britain and the Soviet Union.

Inter-Allied conference

On September 24, 1941, a month after the Atlantic Charter was proclaimed, an inter-allied meeting was held in St. James Palace in London. Mr. Maisky, the Soviet Ambassador to Great Britain, said :

"The Soviet was and is guided in its foreign policy by the principle of the self-determination of nations. Accordingly the Soviet defends the right of every nation to the independence and territorial integrity of its country and its right to establish such a social order as it deems opportune and necessary for the promotion of its economic and cultural prosperity."[1]

The Soviet Union soon endorsed the Atlantic Charter. This was two years and one week after the Soviet Union violated the territorial integrity of Poland and the Baltic states under the Communazi pact, less than two years after the Soviet Union's expulsion from the League of Nations for violating the territorial integrity of Finland,[2] and seven years after the Soviet invasion of the Chinese province of Sinkiang [3]

The alliance was indeed formed four months later, after Pearl Harbor.

Leaders in exile of the Baltic States who were attacked by the Soviet Union interpreted the Atlantic Charter as a guaranty of the restoration of their independence after the war. Nationalists in the British colonies in Africa and Asia used the terms of the Atlantic Charter, which promised to restore sovereignty and self-government to those who had been "forcibly deprived of them," to pressure the British government on the question of decolonization when the war ended.

Officially the original "Atlantic Charter" was really just a press release; it was not a treaty which would require Senate approval, nor was it signed by anyone. The vague policies it formulated echoed the Fourteen Points issued by Woodrow Wilson in 1918, and evolved into the United Nations Charter in 1945. However, there was no mention of an international organization in 1941. Even so, isolationists denounced it as too favorable to Britain, and darkly warned that there probably were secret commitments made.[4] There were no secret commitments. Public opinion in America was generally favorable, but British public opinion was disappointed that the Americans would continue to stay out of the war.

Further reading

  • Brinkley, Douglas, and David R. Facey-Crowther, eds. The Atlantic Charter (1994), articles by scholars. excerpts and text search
  • Dobson, Alan P. "Economic Diplomacy at the Atlantic Conference." Review Of International Studies 1984 10(2): 143-163.
  • Langer, William L. and S. Everett Gleason. The Undeclared War: 1940-41 (1953), pp 663–92; semi-official U.S. history
  • Wilson, Theodore A. The First Summit: Roosevelt and Churchill at Placentia Bay, 1941 (1991)


  1. The Roosevelt Myth, Flynn, 1948, Book 3, Chapter 9, Section 2, Roosevelt's Great Design and Casablanca. pg. 343 pdf.
  2. League of Nations Expulsion of the USSR, League of Nations, Official Journal December 14, 1939, p. 506 (Council Resolution); p. 540 (Assembly Resolution.)
  3. From “Yellow Russia” to the East Turkestan Republic, By Pavel Aptekar. From Aleksandr Kiyan’s Russian-language website devoted to the Red Army of Workers and Peasants, 1918-1945 (home page at http://, specifically the article Ot Zheltorossii do Vostochno-Turkestanskoi respuliki,. See also Kiangsi Soviet Republic, 1 Dec 1931 - 15 Oct 1934.
  4. Roosevelt obtained assurances from the British that they had made no secret commitments to anyone, and would not make any without consulting Roosevelt first.